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Tuesday 20.08.2019 | Name days: Bernhards, Boriss
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Lembergs still earns considerable income despite spending more time in court than at work

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULast year, total income of the suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs was EUR 333,461.33, according to his declaration. A fifth of his income was his pension – EUR 72,740. Lembergs also earned EUR 44,301 as board chairman in Ventspils Freeport and twice as less as mayor in the city council. For years a considerable portion of his income has come from work in associations. From Ventspils Development Agency, for example, Lembergs has been receiving more than EUR 90,000 a year or EUR 255 a day for a long time, as reported by Ventspilnieks.lv portal.

Membership in Ventspils Development Agency is not a cheap activity. Because the agency’s income mostly comes from fees provided by municipal capital associations and the city council, this means enormous income for the suspended mayor is taken from the taxes paid by Ventspils residents, the portal notes.

According to documents analysed by Ventspilnieks.lv, municipal association SIA Kurzeme Philharmonic has paid Ventspils Development Agency EUR 40,000 a year since 2014. Kurzeme Philharmonic, according to Ventspils municipality’s published account, was provided EUR 1.03 million in 2017.

Among the members of Ventspils Development Agency is also SIA Olympic Centre Ventspils, which is under influence from the municipality (52.68%) and Latvia’s Olympic Committee. In spite of working with considerable losses (EUR 576,086 in 2018) Olympic Centre Ventspils still finds funds to afford continued membership in Ventspils Development Agency. The centre’s membership fee is not below that of Kurzeme Philharmonic, Ventspilnieks.lv adds.

Other participating organizations in Ventspils Development Agency include Ventspils Freeport authority, Ventspils University College and Northern Kurzeme Vocational Education Competence Centre Ventspils College, whose activities depend on state and municipal funding (in 2017 Ventspils University College was provided EUR 815,000 by the municipality). Aivars Lembergs is also a member in Ventspils Development Agency, as are Ventspils Freeport CEO Imants Sormulis, Lembergs’ deputy Guntis Blumbergs, former manager of Ventspils Olympic Centre Uldis Boitmanis, Lembergs’ wife, Ventspils Development Agency’s Director Lilita Seimuškāne and Ventspils University College Professor Jānis Sīlis.

De Facto programme reports that Ventspils University College pays membership fee of EUR 22,000 every year, Ventspils College pays EUR 711. Both education institutions claim the development agency has helped attract more students.

Ventspils City Council deputy Aivis Landmanis says all of the aforementioned legal and private persons are dependent on Aivars Lembergs and they have a duty to «do his bidding» essentially. This belief is reinforced by the letter sent by Kurzeme Philharmonic on 25 February 2014 to the board of Ventspils Development Agency, requesting membership in the agency. This letter references minutes of the meeting of Ventspils City Council’s Economy and Budget Committee led by Lembergs. This means there may have had been a decision made by the committee to recommend this municipal capital association to become a member, the portal reports.

At the same time, nothing is known about the contribution of Ventspils Development Agency and its president Aivars Lembergs provide for Ventspils and its members. It is worth mentioning that it is for this alleged work Lembergs, according to his declaration, was paid EUR 93,389.29 annually or EUR 7,782 a month in 2018.

Programme De Facto reports that Ventspils Development Agency performs promotion of the city, assisting members with marketing. And Lembergs is in charge of it all. «Well, I do receive a wage there in accordance with members’ decision,» says Lembergs.

When asked about his direct responsibilities, Lembergs said he communicates with members and does what they need marketing-wise.

The programme also notes that aside from all of his established duties, Lembergs is also required to spend time in court, being the accused in a still continuing trial, and all that. Court processes are held four times a week. This begs the question where he finds the time to work in the association that is able to pay him EUR 255 a day or one-fourth of the association’s income.

Lembergs estimates that he spends five hours in court almost every day and sleeps for six hours. This means there are thirteen hours left for everything else. «Is this too little? This is more than you spend time working, but you don’t see me counting your money,» Lembergs said in response to De Facto’s question.

«For several months now people have been captivated by the scandal involving possible corruption, wastefulness and avoidance of good management principles at Riga municipal administration’s owned public transport company Rīgas satiksme, where in the past three years contracts for advisory services have had been signed with more than 60 people, with 28 of them being directly or indirectly associated with Harmony political party, Nils Ušakovs or Riga City Council structures. Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s Chief Jēkabs Straume mentioned that there may have had been fictive employment used in Rīgas satiksmem as well as fraud and document forging, and that hired consultants were paid nearly EUR 600,000 for their possibly non-existent services,» says Aivis Landmanis.

He continues: «The uncovered cases in Riga City Council and Rīgas satiksme were the reason why Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce decided to dismiss Nils Ušakovs as Mayor of Riga. However, no one – not the ministry, not CPCB, not State Police Economic Crimes Enforcement Unit, not the prosecutor’s office – has so much as gazed at the unclear activities of Aivars Lembergs in organizations like Ventspils Development Agency from which he has received EUR 1,500,000 since 2001 and Business Development Association, in which his annual wage was more than double of his wage in Ventspils Development Agency until 2016 (EUR 187,819), in spite of countless requests from Ventspils City Council opposition deputies. Could this mean what is not permitted to Ušakovs is permitted to Lembergs?»

De Facto explains that a couple of years ago State Police had commenced an inspection, but no reasons for a criminal process were found. CPCB also believes that as chairman of the city council Lembergs has no restrictions on taking posts and receiving wages in associations.

Minister Juri Pūce also sees no violations of the law. He does plan to meet with Ventspils City Council opposition deputies soon.

Deputy Aivis Landmanis also says ‘Ventspils Development Agency was created as a special feeding ground for Lembergs, which provides additional income for him and the necessary publicity’. If this is the case, this is not the first public organization created for Lembergs. L.Lapsa’s and I.Saatčiane’s co-authored book «How to steal a billion?» mentions Olafs Berķis’ interrogation minutes in Lembergs’ criminal case, in which in relation to Business Development Association the following is mentioned: «A.Lembergs tossed phrases that we receive large wages, unlike him, who is only paid a wage as head of the municipality. Sometime later the idea to create public organizations came up and everyone supported it.»

As deputy Artuss Kaimiņš stressed in his request to law enforcement institutions to investigate Lembergs’ activities in this organization in 2017, the mayor of Ventspils has received around EUR 2.7 million from the association over the course of sixteen years. Aivis Landmanis notes that state officials and law enforcement institutions should pay more attention to this because this was done in a time when Lembergs was under court-applied security measures, which begs the question regarding possible fiction of applied security measures. The opposition deputy also asks authorities to answer who else aside from Lembergs should be held responsible for any potential new crimes committed over the course of this period of time.


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